23 Jan NorCal Surf Trip – The Right Place, the Right Time with the Right People
Every time a big swell is on its way, I begin to plan on where to go and try to get all my work done.
Even though I have organized my life to be free, sometimes I feel guilty leaving my wife and son for the pursuit of surfing big waves. This past week was one of those times.
The swell was coming and I needed to be at the right place at the right time, but I was not sure where to go. It was already Saturday afternoon and I was determined not to miss another great swell.
I usually head South to Blacks or Mexico, because I know my way around, but the swell would not arrive there until a full day later and it would be a lot smaller. It was going to be hitting up north in the morning and the weather was going to be beautiful, sunny skies, 70 degree temps, and off shore winds.
What to do?
A couple years ago I met new friends surfing in Puerto Escondido, Ian and Haley. They live in NorCal, they love big waves, and most of all they love Mavericks. They are normal guys like me, not pros and not burned-out old surfers with bad attitudes, but guys with their shit together, who CHARGE. I decided to reach out and send Ian a message, asking him what was up and where was he was surfing the swell.
He sent a short reply: “START DRIVING NOW!”
Ian lives in Ocean Beach, San Francisco, and it is an 7 hour drive for me.
Believe it or not I do not connect with too many people, I often do everything alone. My wife is awesome; she pushes me to reach out to friends and not do so many things on my own. She encouraged me to go and helped me to get ready. While she was packing water and food for me, I was busy loading up the essentials on the roof of my van:
- A 10’6″ Ron House Gun
- A 10’6″ Riviera Paddleboard – Ron House board
- An 8’0″ Gerry Lopez Pipe Gun
- My 5’10” Ron House twin-fin fish, just in case all the models were wrong and it was flat!
- and most importantly, my Patagonia wetsuit. (I never got cold thanks to that suit)
I was loaded up and on the road an hour after getting Ian’s message.
It was about 10 p.m. when I arrived in San Francisco, after driving straight through, I pulled up to Ian’s oceanfront home with him waving from the window. I had not seen him in two years, but he is like me, he loves to surf.
The plan was to meet Haley at Mavericks before dawn. They were having the Maverick’s Invitational big wave contest with all the pros and the circus; we wanted to be there before they started, so we could get some waves.
We awoke at 4:30, got on the road and were in the parking lot 5:15. The police were already shutting down the streets, I guess they were expecting a big crowd.
We suited up in the dark and began the long paddle out. The air was still and quiet, with a zillion stars in the sky, and due to the long period swell the ocean was unusually calm. I could barely see my friends as they guided me around the huge rocks, I was so focused on just getting there and getting out, I never really thought about what it would be like to be in the lineup of one the scariest waves in the world in total blackness. I wish I could properly describe how cool that experience was but it is impossible.
I must say once there it was down right spiritual, it was a moment when all the effort pays off.
I was in my element. We gazed at the stars with giant swells rolling beneath us, waiting for the dawn so we could surf. As soon as the tiniest bit of light filled the air the waves exploded into view. My friends paddled right into the lineup and began to ride the giant waves. I was in heaven, three guys surfing alone at one of the biggest best breaks in the world.
I caught one huge left and achieved two of my goals for the year:
- Surf Mavericks; and
- Spend more time with friends.
A half hour later noise and diesel fumes destroyed the calm, an army of jet skis first, and then a flotilla of boats converging on the reef, then two giant coast guard ships, and news helicopters.
Our Mavs session was instantly over, forty guys crawled into the line up and the circus began. so we sat in the channel and watched our pro surfer friends ride waves.
Something was missing, contests have become everything surfing is not. We paddled in to refuel and go surf Ocean Beach, we knew it was firing. In fact it was the best it had been in years. But, Ian was down after hurting his arm on his last wave at Mavs. I surfed by myself in front of his house all afternoon.
It was huge and empty, just me and the sea, a far contrast from the circus we left. Hands down the best surf session I ever had on my paddle board. I was at the perfect place at the perfect time, We watched the sunset while drinking beer from the sand dunes. Our bodies were buzzing from the days waves totally stoked and exhausted.
The next morning the swell was smaller but more groomed and still great. Ian feed me coffee and motivated me to charge into the sea once more. Haley met us in the water. Great rides were had by all and another epic session went into the history books.
This is what surfing and life is all about, being with the right people, in the right place, at the right time. Make the effort, reach out, and create new adventures.
Thanks guys for an fantastic 48 hours.
Life is Good Drew
PS: Thanks to Bruce Topps of NorCal Surf Photos for the shots of me surfing Ocean Beach!